A Tribute to a Member of the Forgotten Troop – Maude Virginia Porter-Miller

A Tribute to a Member of the Forgotten Troop – Maude Virginia Porter-Miller

A Tribute to a Member of the Forgotten Troop:  6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

Maude Virginia Porter-Miller: Our Mother and Our Hero

Contributed by Debra Jones

Maude Virginia Porter - Miller

In 1944, our country was engaged in WWII and my mother was living her dream of attending college at Howard University, in Washington, D.C., to obtain her degree in home economics.  When my mother heard that the military needed volunteers to go overseas, she jumped at the opportunity to serve her country, as well as experience an adventure of a lifetime and she joined the Army.  Her country called and she answered with, “Yes, I will!”  She entered the military on October 2, 1944.  This was the beginning of our mother’s life of service to her country and community.

After my mother’s troop arrived in England and they were shown the challenge before them, she tackled the task just as she approached everything in life—with a positive attitude.   Even though they were not living in the best lodging conditions, it never affected her at work or how she saw the current task as an opportunity and adventure.  What I learned from my mother is how to look at situations from different perspectives, and how to turn a negative situation into an opportunity…to do this one needs a vision.

My mother was a loving, caring, and supportive person who always loved to help others reach their goals.  Her life reflected that in everything she did including her work in the military and in her community.  For example, she started Town and Country Nursery School for the mothers in her community who wanted to look for viable employment.  In addition, there was the art program for teenagers on the weekend to explore their creativity.  Mom was always looking for different ways to help others, especially children, to experience new things and have opportunities to elevate themselves.  For instance, Mom and Dad went to the Cook County Commissioner for Blue Island Township and requested permission to form a fundraising group called the Cook County Community Organization that raised money for underprivileged children to go to summer camp.  Mom also formed a women’s club called the South Suburban Socialites, another fundraising group that raised money to train girls to become young women with goals. 

Mom always made herself available to lend a helping hand to her family and community.  As a member of the Volunteer Service Guild for Provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, she helped to raise money to purchase needed hospital equipment.  She was also a foster parent, until she became ill, to many children in the Los Angeles area.  Her home was known as one of the best foster homes in Los Angeles County.

Reflecting on all my mother’s accomplishments, it makes me proud to be called her daughter.  I think about the good times we had fixing up our house on Vista Laguna Terrace and I remember what I thought when I saw that old house:  “What was she thinking?”  But my mom did not see an old house.  She saw a beautiful home.  We worked together to make that house the home she knew it could be—one where loving, beautiful memories of family gatherings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinners would be cherished forever in our hearts.  I will never forget the wonderful birthday parties and helping her prepare for bridge parties, although at times I did not want to help.  What I realize now, later in life, is that every household task that I had to do was for a purpose.  It was to prepare me for the future.  Every skill she taught me I have had to use during my lifetime; from cooking, sewing and hosting events to having an excellent work ethic.  All I can say is, “Thank you, Mom.”

When I think of my mom, I think of an extraordinary human being.  In her lifetime she touched countless lives and influenced so many people to pursue their dreams.  My mom had so much love in her heart and she shared that with all the people that came into her life.  She loved and supported and encouraged us all by being a good listener and assisting each of us according to our needs.

I love and miss you, Mom.

6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

The Forgotten Battalion of WWII

WWII All African American Women Army Corps

Women of Courage, Tenacity & Strength

Written by Lori Stephenson

Maj. Charity Adams Inspecting the Troops of 6888th Postal Directory Battlion
Major Charity Adams inspecting the troops February 15, 1945 in Birmingham, England.

For the most part we, here in America, take the daily delivery of mail for granted.  It is a pretty sure bet that if you drop a piece of first-class mail in the box at the local post office, it will make it to its destination, anywhere coast-to-coast in the USA, within three to four days tops.  For our military men and women deployed overseas, however, mail is a highly valued and much awaited item that, even with today’s automated systems, can take weeks or more to catch up with them.  When mail call comes there are anxious soldiers waiting for that “letter from home” with the latest pictures and stories of the loved ones they have left behind.

Never are these letters and care packages from home more valuable and vital to morale than when our soldiers are in harm’s way in hostile situations.  This is also when it is the hardest to deliver due to a number of factors including frequent troop movements and limited supply chains and carriers.  This was exactly the situation that our troops were in during the winter of 1945 in WWII.  As they made their way across Western Europe and into Germany’s homeland, a tremendous backlog of undelivered mail built up and the morale of the sleep deprived and battle-weary soldiers was sinking.  Facing a severe shortage of manpower and growing pressure to give African American women a more active role in the war, the Army made an unprecedented decision and the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion (The Six Triple Eight) was formed.

The “6888” has a long list of “firsts” and accomplishments to its credit.  Comprised of 855 women, of which 824 were enlisted and 31 were officer, it was the first African American all-female battalion.  The “list of firsts” was contributed to by the battalion’s commanding officer, Maj. Charity Adams.  A member of the first female officer training class in Iowa and the first African American female commissioned officer, she became the highest ranking African American female officer by the end of the war, when she was promoted to Lt. Colonel.

The “6888” was the first and only all-women battalion to be deployed overseas.  They faced threatening conditions soon after they set sail for Europe.  On their two-week trek across the Atlantic Ocean, they survived brushes with German U-boats that were close enough that their ship was forced to maneuver so sharply that it sent pots and pans clanging down to the floor.  Then, upon their arrival in Glasgow, Scotland on February 14, 1945, they were greeted by a German V-1 rocket, known as a Buzz Bomb, which sent them running for shelter across the slippery snow-covered ground.  After their eventful arrival, they immediately boarded a train and headed to Birmingham, England.


Major Charity Adams at the grand opening of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion refreshment bar.
Major Charity Adams at the grand opening of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion refreshment bar.

The first few days of their assignment in Europe were a whirlwind.  Once the exhausted women arrived in England there was no time for relaxing and settling in.  They were hurriedly assigned to their quarters and directed to their posts.  Just three short days after stepping foot on dry ground, they had already marched through the streets of Birmingham in perfect formation, prepared for and been inspected by a general, and worked at least two shifts each.

Their assignment was to sort and redirect the delivery of the millions of backlogged letters and packages that had all but ceased to be delivered before their arrival.  Some of the mail had already been delayed by as much as two years.  The women immediately saw the need for a better process and went to work developing a new system that would break the bottleneck and get the stacks of mail that were packed to the ceiling in three air hangars delivered as quickly as possible.  In order to do this, they would need to create and maintain current information cards for each of more than 7 million United States Army, Navy, Air Force, civilian and Red Cross personnel in the European Theater of Operation (ETO).  Because of troop and personnel movements, many of the cards had to be updated several times a month.  To make matters even more challenging, many of the letters lacked proper addresses.  It was not uncommon for a letter to be addressed, “Junior, US Army.”  Even when they were addressed with full names, it was far from easy.  According to military records, there were approximately 7,500 “Robert Smiths” in the ETO, and each one had to be identified with a serial number, tracked and kept straight.


6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion sorting mail
Members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion sorting mail.

Their working conditions in the converted hangars did not make it any easier.  The windows were blacked out to prevent detection and targeting during nighttime enemy air raids.  This meant no light from what little sun shone through the dismal winter skies during the day and contributed to very low lighting conditions, which made eyestrain a constant nuisance.  Heat in the warehouses was practically nonexistent during what was an unusually cold winter, even for England.  This meant the women were wearing long johns and whatever else they could manage to fit under their coats, just to stave off the numbing cold.

Then there were the daily challenges of “dual segregation.”  They were segregated both as women and as African Americans.  The women of the “6888” were not allowed to sleep, shower or eat in the same facilities as the other female personnel and soldiers.  They were housed in what had previously been a boarding school and while most of the “6888” were designated postal clerks, due to segregation, some of the women took on service and support positions—operating their own mess hall, make-shift hair salon, motor pool and supply rooms—making the 6888th almost entirely self-sufficient.

Despite these challenges, the “6888” worked tenaciously around the clock.  There were 3 eight-hour shifts per day, seven days a week.  Their task was daunting, but they knew that for the soldiers in the field, letters from loved ones brought important personal connections that kept morale high.  Each shift averaged 65,000 pieces of mail going out for delivery to soldiers across Europe.  The women took great satisfaction in knowing that they were able to improve the quality of life and provide some semblance of comfort to the millions of soldiers that were so far from home.

6888 Central Postal Directory Battalion Marching in Birmingham, England 1945
6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion marching in Birmingham, England, led by Major Charity Adams (February 1945).

When they had been assigned to Birmingham, it was supposed to be a six-month assignment.  However, they completed their assignment in half that time.  In May of 1945, just three months after arriving in Europe, they had done the impossible and cleared the backlog.  Their efforts were so successful that they were reassigned to Rouen, France, to get the mail moving there.

The treatment and living conditions in Rouen, and later during their final assignment in Paris, was quite different than what they had experienced in England.  The task was still difficult, the work schedule still relentless, the segregation ever-present, but the overall living conditions were better than what many of the women had experienced at home.  While in France they were housed in a luxurious hotel with maids to clean their rooms and chefs to prepare their meals.  No more cold, drafty mess halls, and the “meat of the day” was no longer Spam.

While in France, they were invited to participate in the parade held in Rouen’s Place du Vieux- Marché, the historical place where Joan of Arc died.  Even the parade was different.  While they marched through the streets of Birmingham, England, it had been amid curious onlookers and the watchful eye of inspecting officers dissecting their every step.  In France, they were part of a celebration.  People were happy and cheering and calling out good wishes for them.  In spite of the heavy workload, for many of the women their time here would truly be “the time of their lives.”

It once again took the women only three months to achieve the same staggering results in Rouen, France that they had in Birmingham, England.  From Rouen they were sent to Paris, an assignment which would turn out to be their last when the war ended a short time later.  The “6888” was immediately shipped back home to Fort Dix, New Jersey, having performed above and beyond expectations.  Out of the 855 members of the battalion, three lost their lives during the war.  Those honorable women were laid to rest in France.

Upon the 6888th Battalion’s arrival home, there were no parades or reporters swarming them with questions or taking photos.  There were no cheering crowds to welcome them and congratulate them on a job well done.  Instead, the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was quietly disbanded without fanfare and the women dispersed.  Some continued to serve in the military, but most retired and went home with their story largely untold, their sacrifices unrecognized, and their successes uncelebrated.

Sixty-four long years later, in February of 2009, a U.S. Army support group called the Freedom Team Salute held a ceremony at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion.  Of the 855 women who comprised the “6888,” only three survivors could be located and brought to the ceremony.

Colonel David Griffith, director of Freedom Team Salute, gave the following address at the ceremony:

“For the morale of Soldiers in war time, only one thing counts more than somewhere to sleep or something to eat.  That one thing is mail from home—holiday greetings, photographs, regular letters, and packages filled with items from relatives and friends.  The 6888th Battalion broke all records for redistribution of mail to front line troops in the European theatre.

“Honoring the women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion with Commendation is long overdue.  These were strong women who faced prejudice in the United States, but still managed to complete their mission, putting their Country ahead of their own trials.  They did not have the luxury of working with automation equipment to help them organize, sort and distribute the millions of letters and packages that had accumulated in airplane hangars and other places in Europe.  They are a true American story that needs to be told.”

We here at Our Heritage Magazine Online agree.  Their story is one that needs to be told so that we may remember these women for the courage, tenacity and perseverance that led them to achieve so much in so short a time.

Photographs Courtesy of the United States Army Women’s Museum—Fort Lee, VA

Visit the museum’s webpage at www.awm.lee.army.mil/

Special thanks to Debra Jones for collecting photographs and other efforts to help make this tribute possible.

Center for Women Veterans

Center for Women Veterans

Center for Women Veterans

The Center for Women Veterans was established by Congress in November 1994 by P. L. 103-446

Our Mission

  • To monitor and coordinate VA’s administration of health care and benefits services, and programs for women Veterans.
  • To serve as an advocate for a cultural transformation (both within VA and in the general public) in recognizing the service and contributions of women Veterans and women in the military.
  • To raise awareness of the responsibility to treat women Veterans with dignity and re-spect.

Our Activities

  • The Executive Director serves as primary advisor to the Secretary on Department policies, programs, and legislation that affect women Veterans.
  • Monitor and coordinate with internal VA offices on their delivery of benefits and services to women Veterans.
  • Liaison with other Federal agencies, state and local agencies and organizations, and non-government partners.
  • Serve as a resource and referral center for women Veterans, their family and their advocates.
  • Educate VA staff on women Veterans’ military contributions.
  • Ensure that outreach materials portray and target women Veterans with images, messages, and branding in the media.
  • Promote recognition of women Veterans’ military service and contributions by sponsoring activities and special events.
  • Coordinate meetings of the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans.

Where To Get Help

  • Women Veterans Call Center: Is your guide to VA. Contact 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636) for assistance. Hours of operation are Mon-Fri, 8:00am—10:00pm (ET), and Sat, 8:00am— 6:30pm (ET).
  • Benefits: Designated women Veterans coordinators (WVC) can be contacted at your nearest VA regional office to assist with claims. Contact 1-800-827-1000; visit their website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/ for more information.
  • Homeless: National Homeless Call Center for Homeless Veterans can be reached at 1-877-424-3838. Homeless Veterans coordinators can be located at http://www.va.gov/homeless/index.cfm
  • Crisis Hotline: To help a Veteran in crisis, call the Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, press option 1 and you will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a center in your area, anytime 24/7. You can also confidentially chat, by texting 838255 to get help now, or visit the website at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
  • Health Care: Full-time women Veterans program managers (WVPM) are located in VA health care facilities across the country. WVPM can assist women Veterans with accessing VA’s health care services. Visit http://www.womenshealth.va.gov
  • Locating the nearest VA Medical Center: VA medical facilities can be found across the country. Visit http://www.va/gov or call the regional office at 1-800-827-1000 for assistance locating a facility.
  • Minority: Minority Veterans program coordinators are at every VA healthcare facility, regional office, and national cemetery. For more information, please visit their website at http://www.va.gov/centerforminorityVeterans/
  • Access to Patient Medical Information: My HealtheVet is VA’s online health record system designed to help VA Patients manage their healthcare records from medical providers. Contact 1-877-327-0022 or visit their website at https://www.myhealth.va.gov/index.html
  • VA for Vets: VA for Vets is designed to help you successfully transition from military service to civilian careers and can be contacted at 1-855-824-8387 or via the web at http://vaforvets.va.gov/
  • Home Loan Assistance: VA helps Servicemembers, Veterans, and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners. As part of our mission to serve you. Contact 1-877-827-3702 or via the web at http://www.benefit.va.gov/homeloans/index.asp
  • Education and Training: For information on GI Bill® contact 1-888-442-4551 or visit the website at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/.

Legislation Related to Women Veterans

  • P.L. 111-163, “Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010,” provides contract for a comprehensive study on barriers to health care for women Veterans, pilot program to provide group readjustment counseling in retreat settings for newly separated women combat Veterans, mandates inclusion of recently separated women on Advisory Committees for Women Veterans, and requires VHA to carry out a 2 year pilot program to assess feasibility and advisability of offering child care to Veterans.
  • P.L. 110-186, “Military Reservist and Veterans Small Business Reauthorization and Opportunity Act,” established a Women Veterans business Training Resource Program.
  • P.L. 108-422, “Veterans Health Improvement Act of 2004,” extended VA’s authority permanently to extend Military Sexual Trauma counseling and treatment to active duty service members or active duty for training.
  • P.L. 107-330, “Veterans Benefits Act of 2002,” authorized special monthly compensation for women Veterans who lost 25 percent or more of tissues from a single breast or both breast in combination (including loss by mastectomy or partial mastectomy) or has received radiation of breast tissues.
  • P.L. 106-419, “Veterans Benefits and Healthcare Improvement Act of 2000,” authorized special monthly compensation for women Veterans with a service connected mastectomy. It also authorized benefits to children born of mothers who served in Vietnam and who have certain types of birth defects.
  • P.L. 113-146, The Veterans Choice Act of 2014 closed an eligibility gap for military sexual trauma (MST), permitting Veterans of the National Guard/Reserves to receive VA care related to experiences of MST during inactive duty training.

Board of Veterans’ Appeals Update

Chairmans Presentation from Center for Women Veterans Meeting 7-8-2020


Contact Us

U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Center for Women Veterans (00W)
Address: 810 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20420
Phone: 202-461-6193
Fax: 202-273-7092
Website: https://www.va.gov/womenvet/

Cheryl L. Mason

Cheryl L. Mason

Cheryl L. Mason

Chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeal (Board)

Cheryl L. Mason was nominated by President Donald J. Trump to serve as the Chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and confirmed by the United States Senate on November 8, 2017. Chairman Mason was sworn into office on December 3, 2017.

As Chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board), Ms. Mason leads a team of approximately 1200 personnel including Veterans Law Judges, attorneys and operations and administrative professionals to meet the Board’s mission of conducting hearings and deciding appeals for Veterans and their families. Ms. Mason is accountable for the efficient and effective management of Board resources and executing a budget in excess of $190 million. The Board is the Secretary’s designee to decide appeals arising from the Office of General Counsel and all three administrations: Veterans Benefits Administration, Veterans Health Administration, and National Cemetery Administration.

Prior to assuming her current role, Ms. Mason served as Interim Principal Deputy Vice Chairman, Deputy Vice Chairman, Chief Veterans Law Judge, Veterans Law Judge, and Counsel at the Board as well as an attorney with the Federal Labor Relations Authority and as a Department of the Air Force civilian at HQ United States Air Forces in Europe at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Ms. Mason also served as an instructor at Central Texas College in Germany.

Ms. Mason is the spouse of an Air Force veteran, married to a Lieutenant Colonel, USAF (retired), and is the daughter of a World War II Navy Veteran who died by suicide. In 2020, Chairman Mason was named a PREVENTS Ambassador, and works to help change the culture surrounding mental health and suicide, not just for Veterans, but for everyone. Chairman Mason also is a key leader in the military spouse employment initiative, working to share best practices across enterprises to increase the hiring and retention of military spouses in the federal government.Originally from Portsmouth, Ohio, Ms. Mason received her B.A. with Distinction in Political Science and Psychology from Ohio Northern University and her J.D. from Creighton University School of Law. Ms. Mason began her legal career in private practice in Omaha, Nebraska.

Elizabeth A. Estabrooks

Elizabeth A. Estabrooks

Elizabeth A. Estabrooks

Deputy Director, Center for Women Veterans
Office of the Secretary

Elizabeth Estabrooks leads development and implementation of new initiatives that support and enhance the Center for Women Veteran’s mission and vision. She mirror’s the Executive Director’s goals and vision
to advocate for cultural transformation both within and outside the VA to recognize the service and contributions of women Veterans and servicemembers and raise awareness of the responsibility to treat women Veterans with dignity and respect. Elizabeth is team lead for staff supervision, development, and creative performance, as well as organizational and strategic planning that will continue to move the Center for Women Veterans forward in successfully meeting their goals.

Prior to assuming her role as Deputy Director, Elizabeth served as the Oregon Woman Veterans Coordinator with the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs where she brought decades of knowledge gained from her career working on relevant issues that included domestic violence, sexual assault,
military sexual assault, peer support services, community safety, gender- and culturally-responsive services, and adult learning. As an independent consultant Elizabeth worked with clients that included the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; Oregon Department of Human Services; Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training; Battered Women’s Justice Project; Mental Health Partnerships of Pennsylvania; and the Edmonton Police Department in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Elizabeth also spent four years working with the international cyber security and information security training organization, The SANS Institute.

Elizabeth is a Cold War Veteran of the United States Army, serving at Harvey Barracks in Kitzingen, Germany from 1978 – 1980.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Gender Studies and Political Science from Eastern Oregon
University in La Grande, Oregon, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude and a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University in New York. She was appointed to the Department of Veterans Affairs 2012 National Domestic Violence Task Force and was a 2013 Fisher-Cummings Washington
D.C. Fellow.

Ana Claudio

Ana Claudio

Ana Claudio

National & International Outreach Program Manager, Center for Women Veterans
Office of the Secretary

Ana Claudio serves as the National and International Outreach Manager to the Executive Director for the Center for Women Veterans to develop the Center’s outreach efforts across the Department of Veterans Affairs and other Federal, state, and local officials. In addition, she ensures all outreach activities are consistent with the Department of Veterans Affairs goals and Congressional legislation and assists in providing responses to inquiries from Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the general public for women Veterans. She completed a successful career in the U.S. Navy, rising to the rank of Senior Chief Petty Officer as a Cryptologic Technician Administrative and Yeoman providing administrative and leadership guidance to U.S. Navy enlisted Sailors and Officers. Her 20 plus years of service earned her the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, Global War on Terrorism Medal and various campaign medals and awards.

Prior to assuming her position with the Center for Women Veterans, Ms. Claudio served as the Executive Assistant to the Director Acquisition Talent Management for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy Research, Development and Acquisition.

Ms. Claudio has one daughter Ms. Naia Smith majoring in Forensic Science at Pennsylvania State University.

Ms. Claudio earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Management and Associates of Arts in General Studies from Columbia College Missouri.

Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd Bio

Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd Bio

Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd

Executive Director, Center for Women Veterans
Office of the Secretary

Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd serves as primary advisor to the Secretary on Department policies, programs, and legislation that affect women Veterans. In addition, she oversees the Center’s activities, which include monitoring and coordinating VA’s administration of health care, benefits services, and programs for women Veterans; serving as an advocate for cultural transformation (both within VA and in the general public) in recognizing the service and contributions of women Veterans and servicemembers; and raising awareness of the responsibility to treat women Veterans with dignity and respect. Ms. Hayes-Byrd brings with her experiences in Management, Operations, and Administration and Human Resources. She completed a successful career in the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of Major as an Education and Training Officer supporting the needs of thousands of U.S. Air Force enlisted airmen and officers. Ms. Hayes-Byrd has built a career of service both in and out of uniform. Because of her skills, attention to detail and 30 plus years of experience, she was asked to perform in leadership positions at the state level in the administration of the first female governor of the state of New Jersey and at federal government levels for three U.S. Presidents in The White House, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has also provided leadership in both private and not-for-profit agencies.

Jacquie is a member of both the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Leadership Greater Washington Class of 2009.

Career Chronology:

  • Present: Executive Director, Center for Women Veterans, Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA)
  • 2018 – 2019: Acting Human Resources and Office of Security Preparedness, DVA
  • 2018 – 2019: Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary, DVA
  • 2018 – 2018: Acting Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary, DVA
  • 2017 – 2018: Senior Advisor, Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP), DVA
  • 2014 – 2017: Chief Operating Officer, Family Service Foundation, Inc.
  • 2012 – 2014: Associate Director, Melwood, Horticultural Training Center
  • 2009 – 2012: Founder/Operating Principle, SURECOMFYLIVING, LLC
  • 2008 – 2009: Special Assistant to the Superintendent, Prince George’s County Public School System
  • 2007 – 2008: Senior Advisor, U.S. Commercial Services – Trade Promotions Programs
  • 2006 – 2007: Director of White House Management
  • 2004 – 2006: Executive Director, Global Diversity, US Department of Commerce
  • 2002 – 2004: Director of Management Support Division, US Department of State
  • 2001 – 2002: Director of White House Management, Executive Office of the President


  • 1987 Masters of Public Administration, Troy State University, Troy, AL (United Kingdom)
  • 1982 USAF Commission, NC A&T State University, Greensboro, NC
  • 1982 Bachelor of Arts, Bennet College, Greensboro, NC

VA National Cemeteries Resume Services

VA National Cemeteries Resume Committal and Memorial Services Discontinued by COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON – Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemeteries will resume committal services in all but two national cemeteries on June 9, 2020. VA national cemeteries will begin contacting families who were unable to hold a committal service due to the COVID-19 pandemic to arrange memorial services for their loved ones beginning in July.

“VA national cemeteries were able to continue performing our essential mission – to inter Veterans and eligible family members over the last 10 weeks,” said Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves. “We have been eager to resume normal operations and provide committal services and military honors that families have come to expect. We believe we have a robust set of measures in place that will allow us to conduct committal and memorial services while protecting the health and safety of Veterans, their families and our team members who serve them.”

VA national cemeteries have remained open for interments and visitation throughout the pandemic. However, as a matter of health and safety, committal services and military funeral honors were deferred on March 23, 2020.

Families with interments scheduled on or after June 9, 2020, will be offered the option of a committal service at the time of interment. At Calverton and Long Island national cemeteries, that option will be available starting June 22, 2020, provided state and local guidance permit. Military funeral honors, customarily provided by the Department of Defense and volunteer honor guards, will be based on local availability.

VA national cemeteries will continue adherence to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus by limiting the number of individuals attending committal services, practicing physical distancing between individuals not from the same household, ensuring all attendees and employees wear face coverings, encouraging frequent use of hand sanitizer, and asking sick individuals to stay home. The number of permitted attendees will vary based on state and local guidelines for gathering sizes provided the facility can accommodate larger groups while maintaining physical distancing. Families may continue to choose direct interment and opt for a memorial service at later date when restrictions have been lifted.

Memorial services for Veterans and eligible family members who were interred without a committal service between March 23, 2020 and June 8, 2020 will commence in July.

For more information, visit the NCA’s website, https://wwww.cem.va.gov. Media should contact NCA Public Affairs chief Les’ Melnyk at [email protected]. To make burial arrangements at any VA national cemetery, call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at (800) 535-1117.

Types of VA Claims

Types of VA disability claims and when to file

Find out when you can first file a claim for service-connected benefits — and what to do if you want to request more benefits or have new evidence to support a claim that was denied in the past.

You can still file a claim and apply for benefits during the coronavirus pandemic

Get the latest information about in-person services, claim exams, extensions, paperwork, decision reviews and appeals, and how best to contact the VA during this time.
See the VAs coronavirus FAQs

Learn when to file claims

  • Original claim—file your first claim for disability compensation.
  • Increased claim—file a claim for more compensation for a disability that the VA has already determined to be service connected and that’s gotten worse.
  • New claim—file a claim for added benefits or other benefit requests related to an existing service-connected disability.
  • Secondary service-connected claim—file a claim for a new disability that’s linked to a service-connected disability you already have.
  • Special claim—file a claim for special needs linked to your service-connected disability.
  • Supplemental Claim—provide new evidence to support a disability claim that was denied.

Programs to help speed up your claim decision

Pre-discharge claim

If you have 180 to 90 days left on active duty, find out how to file a disability claim through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program to get your benefits sooner.

Fully developed disability claims

Find out how to use the Fully Developed Claims program to get a faster decision on your disability benefits claim by submitting your evidence (supporting documents) along with your claim.

This information has been provided by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs and is available, along with other important information about veteran benefits, on their site at va.gov.

Our Story, It’s in the Telling

Our Story, It’s in the Telling

Part of the Straight Up! No Chaser! Commentary Series By:​ Tonya Crew, JD

I recently attended a screening of Quentin Tarantino’s new film release, Django, Unchained, “the D is silent”. This movie opened to quite a bit of controversy, and movie-maker Spike Lee made his critique loud and proud, and of course I am paraphrasing, but he will not see it and he does not like what he’s heard of it. The majority of the flap surrounds the endless use of the “n word” – I got tired of hearing the word, but being a Southerner, I understand it was period appropriate and it should not have been surprising considering Tarantino is an “in your face” kind of movie maker.

After all that, I just want to say a few things about the film and a bit more about us. Quentin has created a work that has the magical attributes and the emotional depth to spawn reactions that draw up the vitriol we believed ourselves too evolved to experience, and the “n word” was not the chief catalyst.  I don’t think it was incidental but cleverly contrived, that Tarantino created a mirror and what we saw in it, was the merciless face of our present etched by the truth of our history.  We saw the monsters we became under the yolk, the sheep we became, and the greater ignorance of our condition. While this may not have been the truest rendition of slavery, neither was Spielberg’s Lincoln.  While Spielberg just omitted the slave’s story, Quentin grandly simplified its brutality, while beating his audience about the head (brain) with the clarity of the slave legacy.

Tell me, if you have seen the movie, that you don’t know a person, right here right now, that is Stephen the head house slave.  Samuel L. Jackson was beyond superlative, I will never forget the scene in the film when he has his arms around Leonardo DiCaprio’s character.  Quentin holds the mirror to our faces and dares us to look.  It is certainly understandable why some people were upset by the movie – it was a feeling reminiscent of my first viewing of Alex Haley’s Roots, but from a totally raw and unflinching place.  Django’s German bounty hunter partner brings a different perspective as someone who sees the institution of slavery as ludicrous, and dismisses it with the vigor that Candy (DiCaprio) embraces it.  They will be dissecting this movie for many years to come.

With all the divisive means by which we separate and discriminate against each other, this was a breath of fresh air, totally out of left field.  In 2013, our people are currently in a real state in this Nation, and we absolutely cannot look to the government or the President to address our plights.  If we start with a look in the mirror, maybe we can start to mend the divisions that keep us socially, financially, and politically at the bottom.

Imagine a time when we could pool our economic power, or work as a solid block politically, and not be satisfied with either the idea, that only one will be allowed to dine at the table so you have to crab barrel the sister or brother coming up behind you, or adopt the position, “I have achieved and I am not one of them”.

Here’s the real take away from this film – it’s a love story in a time when our people were not allowed to love, and a black man moves heaven and earth for the black woman he loves.  That was harder for me to believe.  But should you choose to see this film, try to figure out who you see characterized in the film.  Facing truth in an “in your face style” may be our only avenue to find our way to the vital conversation we should have had some hundred and fifty years ago, and was nearly lost to history.

Contributed By: Tonya Crew, JD
Our Heritage Magazine 
Political, Financial & Business Columnist

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